In Her Words
In 1946, Maria and Mario Montessori, newly returned to Europe from a seven year exile in India during World War II, offered a teacher training course in London. In Lecture 18 of the collection, The 1946 London Lectures, edited for publication by Dr. Annette Haines, we find an early discussion of an important feature of the young child’s environment: a low bed. These excerpts show Dr. Montessori’s emphasis on consistency of approach even when meeting children’s needs means going against conventional thinking. The logistics of the “low bed” have been ironed out over many years of Assistants to Infancy practice, with an additional emphasis on the infant’s need for appropriate movement . It remains a centerpiece of the prepared environment for infants and toddlers.
“…The child, too, must develop independence. He must have many opportunities in order to acquire independence. He must be free not only during the day but also at night. You will tell me that night is the time for sleeping. Everyone sleeps at night-or at any rate, they sleep as best as they can. We choose a comfortable bed, but if we want to get out of the bed during the night, we can. Imagine what it would be like to be put to bed in a high cage that you could not get out of when you woke in the morning….
…..the child should have a mattress on the floor…if the child is put to sleep on the floor, he will get up in the morning by himself as soon as he has finished sleeping…if the child needs to get up during the night he must be able to do so independently. A true nurse must educate the child and arrange things so that he can do everything independently….
…If we arrange life more easily for the children it will be happier for us. If the child has a bed that he can in and out of by himself, he will go to bed happily when the light is turned off. He will go to bed spontaneously and happily…If he goes to bed spontaneously, at the right time, it is easy; we can teach him to undress himself, to get ready for bed by himself as much as possible. All this is activity for the child. They sleep like angels all night. They don’t sleep like this when they are agitated. They cannot be calm when the conditions are wrong.”